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QUESTION PERIOD: COVID-19 Pandemic—International Aid

My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus reminds us all of the need for countries to have their citizens vaccinated against COVID. The most effective way to protect ourselves and our loved ones here in Canada is to ensure that our fellow citizens around the world are also protected.

One of the crucial tools the international community has developed to distribute vaccines is an initiative known as COVAX, which aims to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. As a wealthy country, Canada is one of the contributors to the system, and rightly so.

Last month, however, the medical journal The Lancet reported that COVAX will not reach its goal of delivering 2.1 billion doses to low- and middle-income countries by the end of this year. In addition, at a conference I attended last week with European and Canadian experts, I was disappointed to learn that only Norway and Sweden have delivered on commitments in the time frames to which they had committed.

I would like to ask the Government Representative in the Senate if he would please provide this chamber with information on the level of support pledged by Canada to COVAX; the amount of that support that has so far been delivered; whether we are on schedule with that support; and whether there are discussions taking place to increase our commitments, including a schedule for those commitments.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question.

The government remains committed to supporting equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, as well as diagnostics. Since the start of this crisis, the government has contributed $545 million to the COVID-19 vaccine Global Access Facility for vaccine procurement, distribution and delivery for 92 low- and middle-income economies that are eligible for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment. It is reported that, as of November 22, the government has delivered more than 8.3 million doses of the vaccine through COVAX.

Canada has also shared 763,080 doses of AstraZeneca through direct bilateral agreements with countries from Latin America and the Caribbean. At the recent G20 summit, the Prime Minister announced Canada’s commitment to donate the equivalent of at least 200 million doses to the COVAX Facility by the end of 2022.

Senator Harder: As a follow-up, could the government please include, with the report that I asked to be tabled, a reference to a joint request this week from COVAX, the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention that donor countries help improve vaccine coverage in Africa by improving predictability with respect to the quantity of doses being delivered, providing earlier notice in advance of delivery and ensuring that donated doses have a shelf life of at least 10 weeks?

The group has also asked for more ancillary supplies, such as syringes. Having to plan on short notice and administering doses with short shelf lives have created immense problems in Africa in health systems that are already overstretched. I would be grateful if the Government Representative in the Senate would table a response regarding both the schedule and amount.

Senator Gold: Thank you, senator, for the question. I will pass it on to the government and table a response in as timely a fashion as I can.